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Globalization Essay, Research Paper

In my research paper I will address the question, “How does globalization effect the onset and outcome of the revolutionary process?” This subject area provides a very fertile area of research for two important reasons. The first is that many of the traditional revolutionary theories tend to focus highly on the “government/rebel” dichotomy. But it is my contention that focus on this distinction prevents a holistic understanding of the way that revolutions occur in modern times. In the current world order where multinational corporations have greater incomes than the governments of several developing countries and are supported by their superpower nation of origin the possibility of corporations affecting revolutions is very real. These impacts can range from increasing the probability of a revolution to situations where these forces of globalization actually are involved with the revolution. The second important revolutionary impact of globalization that I intent to prove is that the outcomes of revolutions can be heavily affected by the forces of revolution. I believe that an understanding of how globalization changes the factors in the revolutionary model is key to developing a comprehensive picture of how revolution will work in the new millennium.

I will divide my paper into two sections, how globalization affects the formation of a revolutionary situation and how it affects the outcome of a revolution. In each section I will examine relevant sections of some popular revolutionary theories that each individually hint at impacts of globalization. Then in each section I will be analyzing some examples of revolutions and popular uprisings and applying my contentions about globalization to them.

Before I dive in to some of the tentative subjects of my paper I think that it is important to give a brief explanation of what globalization is. The growth of huge multinational corporations has created a situation where businesses from developed countries have the opportunity to set up shop in developing countries in order to control the large markets that reside in the developing nations around the world. What this does is drain away capital from the poorer members of developing nations and put it in the hands of huge corporations. As Roger Burbach puts it, ” the continued draining of financial resources to the First World has caused the Third World countries to remain stuck in the early stages of industrialization.”[Burbach, 1997:18].

When I choose this topic the first affect of globalization that came to mind was that the people of developing nations must see through consumerism, television, and advertisements the culture of the developed nations. This could have the affect of heightening people’s awareness of the fact that their current system does not provide them with the best benefits. This is very consistent with the theory of “progressive depravation” outlined by Ted Gurr that we discussed in class. The cultural glimpses can have a very powerful effect on the populace. An excellent example of this is the movie industry that spreads pictures of western culture to the entire world. A French film director described the situation perfectly, “Sound and pictures have always been used for propaganda, and the real battle at the moment is over who is going to be allowed to control the world’s images, and so sell a certain lifestyle.”[Barber, 1995:82]. It seems very plausible that members of developing nations would choose to strive for a life more like “It’s a Wonderful Life” than the one that their government is currently offering. In my paper I hope to apply this cultural version of Gurr’s theory to the student uprisings in China during 1989. These uprisings occurred after the Chinese government relaxed some of its cultural restrictions that allowed western culture to spread to the Chinese people. As our textbook explained wonderful aspects of western life like motor-cross racing and movies reached the populace as a whole [Whyte, 1995]. This induction of new ideas into Chinese culture may have had an impact on the decision to demonstrate.

Another theory that I plan to use to show the affects of globalization is Tilly’s theory on resource control. In his article that we discussed in class Tilly described how they key to success in a revolution is which side can mobilize resources, both economic and political, the most effectively. When globalization is considered as a factor and applied as shall we say a third party in a revolution Tilly’s ideas about resources can be very incitful. In many cases in developing countries the corporations are the ones who control most of the resources of the nation. If Tilly is correct then this resource control would give corporations a lot of power in the revolutionary process. Any dissident group would be hard pressed to gain any ground without the assistance of the multi-national corporations and the nations that protect them. One of my favorite members of the intellectual community comments on this situation, “Many countries are so weak that they can’t really solve their problems in the face of U.S power; they can’t even control their own wealthy!”[Chomsky, 1996]

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of resource control by international corporations that I plan to use in my paper comes from the incomparable Vandana Shiva. In her book Biopiracy, Shiva explains how the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (G.A.T.T) and the provisions for Intellectual Property Rights (I.P.R) that are contained within severely curtail the developing nations from building a better life. As if that where not enough Shiva’s book paints a grim picture of how the lack of environmental concern by these corporations could lead to the destruction of many developing cultures [Shiva, 1997].

In regards to how globalization can affect the outcomes of revolutions I plan to combine the aspects of Gurr and Tilly’s theories with some of the ideas presented by Benjamin Barber in his book Jihad vs. Mcworld. Basically my contention is that globalization creates the following situation. According to Gurr’s theory as I discussed it above an increase in exposure to Western ideals can open the minds of citizens of developing countries to new ways of living. This can lead to dissident movements like the Chinese student movements. These circumstances combined with what I have shown using Tilly’s theory of resource control the situation is one where the forces of globalization motivate people to perform revolutionary activities while at the same time these corporations control the resources that are necessary for those activities to succeed. I believe that this conclusion is supported by Barber in his book where he analyzes how corporations destroy culture and prevent social welfare by forcing citizens of developing nations to become consumers in a system where the corporations have complete economic control and no concern for the welfare of the people [Barber, 1995]. Also, I plan to show that the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and its subsequent economic troubles is an excellent empirical example.

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